Profile: 'I studied via my laptop and mobile'

How not going to a bricks-and-mortar institution helped a student buy a house
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The Independent Online

Many youngsters dream of running away to join the circus. But for Paul Tkachenko, one of the growing number of school leavers to choose part-time education over traditional university, the dream was a reality.

"When I finished my A- levels I took a gap year to see if I could make it as a musician," he says. "It's very difficult to break into the music business, but I got very lucky, very quickly." Paul, a bass player, landed a job in a variety theatre, which led to an offer to join Circus Roncalli. His father, a former Open University student, suggested he could develop his career and get a degree. Most of his study was completed while travelling as a circus performer.

"Because I was constantly performing I often had to study from the back of a circus wagon, writing my assignments on a laptop and submitting them via my mobile phone," says Paul. "Modern technology means that no student need be out of reach for long.

"I finished my Open University degree at the same time as my brother and sister, who both studied in 'bricks and mortar' universities. They finished with the usual student debts while I bought a house."

Paul went on to complete a Masters degree in Music with the OU and is planning to do a PhD. Now based in Walthamstow, he has qualified as a teacher and lectures in music as well as playing with the Philharmonic Skiffle Orchestra and Troia Nova, a group who combine Turkish and Greek influences.